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Distributed Education Instructor Best Practice Guidelines

Categories: faculty instructors technology Undergrad Distance learning


Distance learning is challenging both for instructor and student. The barriers of distance and technology put participants at a disadvantage. The guidelines below have been demonstrated to enhance the learning experience for learners and instructors and have become part of the collection of best practices. Although the guidelines are intended for didactic environments, they are easily applied to video conferencing meetings and nondidactic sessions. 

Establish expectations

The importance of establishing expectations at the beginning of a course or lecture is important as it helps address issues and conflicts before they arise.

  1. Some things to think about:
    1. Technology: Is computer (surfing, email) / phone (texting, ringing) use permitted? See Personal Computer and Communications Device Guidelines Document for more information1.
    2. Behavior: What notable classroom behavior is unacceptable / acceptable?
    3. Q/A: How and when to do you expect students to ask/answer questions?
    4. Recording: Declare that lecture is being recorded, if appropriate. Where will it be posted
    5. Plan: Briefly outline the lecture, learning objectives and format at the start.
  2. Suggestions:
    1. "Computer use is permitted for these purposes…"
    2. "Turn phones off during class."
    3. "I will periodically call on students at each site to answer questions…"
    4. "I welcome questions from each site and this is how you do it…"
    5. "Keep mics muted until ready to use."
    6. "This is a recorded lecture, please be mindful of disruptions and interruptions."

Actively Engage

Actively engaging participants in all sites improves the learning and provides a richer experience for the instructor and the learner.

  1. Develop a rapport with your audience by introducing yourself and describing the lecture; who you are and what students are expected to do and get out of the lecture.
  2. Stress the importance of participation to their success as learners.
  3. Make physical appearances at sites, where possible (such as overflow rooms).
  4. Make verbal and visual contact with all sites before the session gets going.
  5. Get to know all students by name and by site (as much as possible). A contact sheet of faces and names can be provided for you upon request.
  6. Directly pose questions or solicit feedback from each site at key points throughout the presentation / lecture. “Regina, what do you think...?
  7. Identify the location of the camera in the room so that you may make eye-contact with the other sites.
  8. At the end of lecture / presentation, clarify content or address concerns about the learning experience. Note any technical problems and report to a technician.

Instructor as Ambassador

An ambassador will help learners feel included in the lecture experience and appreciate that the instructor is supportive of their learning.

  1. Ensure that each site hears questions or comments from other sites by repeating them first then answering the question/comment.
  2. Periodically check to ensure everyone (all sites) can still hear / see everything.
  3. Remind participants about the importance of their involvement
  4. Periodically, directly solicit input from quiet sites or participants: “I am interested to know what Regina thinks about this….”

Other Considerations

An ambassador will help learners feel included in the lecture experience and appreciate that the instructor is supportive of their learning.

  1. a. Refer to the LMG for presentation specific recommendations2.
  2. Show-up at least 15 min. prior to the lecture to get geared up, oriented and ready to present on time. Those 15min may be invaluable to help you resolve technical problems with your presentations before the lecture starts.
  3. Except in highly extenuating circumstances (i.e., protection of patient privacy in a video or photograph), it is expected that instructional materials used in class will be made available to students 48 hours in advance to assist them in their longterm mastery of the subject matter.
  4. Find the optimal distance from the microphone to ensure it is not too loud or too faint.
  5. Allow for the delay in transport of the signal. For example, count to 3 before responding to a question from a remote site.
  6. If wearing a live microphone, mute or power-down the microphone when not presenting (students do not need to hear private conversations).
  7. Keep an eye on the confidence monitors (monitors around the room displaying the various video feeds – presenter, presentation, audience…)
  8. Make sure you remain in front of the microphone (if it is fixed) and in front of the camera (if it is fixed). Lapel microphones and camera operators will otherwise follow along.
  9. Use networked pointing devices such as the mouse pointer. Pointer sticks, laser pointers and room based devices, do not transmit to remote sites.

This document and guidelines enclosed are the responsibility of the Curriculum Delivery Subcommittee (CDSC). Please forward suggestions or feedback to the CDSC.

 1 Personal Computer and Communications Device Guidelines:

2 Learning Management Guidelines